Anne Kelly-Lenz hired as Wilton’s CFO
Anne Kelly-Lenz, most recently finance director of the city of Bridgeport, is Wilton’s new chief financial officer. She succeeded former CFO Sandy Dennies, who resigned Nov. 30, as expected.
According to her LinkedIn page, Kelly- Lenz has six years’ experience in the private sector as the accounting manager of a hedge fund company preceding her public career.
For the city of Bridgeport, she worked three years as treasurer, four as tax collector and four as finance director.
At a special Board of Selectmen meeting Tuesday, Nov. 24, Wilton’s selectmen unanimously hired Kelly-Lenz, ending what had been a controversial process.
Lynne Vanderslice, Wilton’s first selectman-elect, was unable to attend the special meeting, but joined in the conversation via speakerphone.
“I expect you all would appreciate that as the first selectman-elect and as a former financial professional, I was very concerned with ensuring our next CFO is well qualified, with outstanding accounting and financial knowledge and skills, and that the individual had the track record and strong management and good communication skills. Therefore, I consider us very lucky to have found all of this in Anne, and I strongly urge you to hire her,” Vanderslice said over the phone.
Previously, Vanderslice had also emailed a statement regarding the search and its outcome to each of the selectmen, and outgoing First Selectman Bill Brennan thought it prudent — considering it will be Vanderslice, not him, to whom Kelly-Lenz will report — to read it aloud.
It said, in part, “Two candidates stood out above the others: Anne as a permanent hire and another individual as an interim with the possibility of permanent. While scheduling interviews with both candidates, the committee learned the interim candidate had taken a permanent position. I recommended we interview Anne before pursuing other possible interim candidates.”
Because Warren Serenbetz and Dick Dubow were unable to meet with Kelly- Lenz, Vanderslice asked Richard Creeth, a chartered accountant, current Board of Finance member and previous Board of Selectmen member, to participate.
Through several interviews, Vanderslice’s report said, “Anne displayed a strong knowledge of accounting, financial reporting, budgeting and forecasting, and good analytical thinking. She had excellent communication skills, and demonstrated the ability to think quickly on her feet. Her answers to questions … left me confident she is both a strong and fair manager. The reference results which you have support my assessment. In her current position, she has successfully dealt with difficult situations, has shown a willingness to roll up her sleeves to address issues, and displayed a strong sense of customer service in her interactions with taxpayers.”
Before opening up the meeting to comments and questions from selectmen, Brennan underscored the value of Kelly-Lenz’s positive reference evaluations, something that each of the selectmen would echo in their remarks.
“[Anne’s] supervisors, peers and subordinates all rated her exceptional, in the 9 to 10 range in almost every incident,” Brennan said. “It was one of the highest ratings that NESC said they had gotten on a candidate in years.” NESC, the National Executive Service Corps, conducted the search for the town.
Mike Kaelin explained that although he was not a member of the search committee, he had on principle insisted upon interviewing Kelly-Lenz himself, had done so and was satisfied with her as a permanent candidate, recommending she be hired.
“I was overwhelmingly impressed with her,” he said. “I genuinely enjoyed speaking with her on the phone. … The reference report we got is truly outstanding; this is not what reference reports normally look like. The subordinates ranked her a 10 out of 10, and even her supervisors had her at 9.7, which is what lawyers like me tell supervisors to do — not to give anyone a perfect score. So she came as close to a perfect score as we can get.”
When asked to comment on the hiring, Creeth said he was impressed by Kelly-Lenz’s experience as treasurer, tax collector and finance director in Bridgeport.
“She’d been through all of those. And the thing that I really liked was, in each of those departments, she did a lot of process improvement. So I was extremely impressed. We drilled her on specific technical issues, financial reporting, encumbrance accounting. … I totally endorse Lynne’s opinion.”
When it was time to vote, a motion was made by Dubow to hire Kelly-Lenz as Wilton’s permanent chief financial officer, effective Dec. 7.
He was seconded by Deborah McFadden, and the selectmen voted unani mously, hiring Anne Kelly-Lenz as chief financial officer.
How to approach the search for Dennies’ replacement was a point of contention at the Board of Selectmen’s regular meeting on Sept. 8.
With contested races for first selectman and other seats on the board not yet decided, questions of whether to at that time pursue a permanent or an interim CFO, and whether the current board should even be involved in the search with a new board coming into effect so soon, were raised.
Further debating the subject at their Sept. 21 meeting, the selectmen voted to continue the search and authorized the NESC to prioritize the hunt for interim candidates but also to consider permanent ones if they should appear.
Several members of the public spoke against the resolution then before the board, arguing that it was not within the current board’s purview to hire or even to search for an employee who will be reporting to another executive.
Three residents even filed (and later withdrew) a Freedom of Information Act complaint against Brennan, Dubow and Serenbetz for their actions as a search committee for a new CFO.
At the meeting on Nov. 24, members of the public attended. One asked to make public comment but was denied, with Brennan saying, “We didn’t set a schedule for public comment, and so I’m going to adjourn the meeting.”
Public comment was not listed on the agenda for the Nov. 24 special meeting.
The NESC is a nonprofit consulting firm that caters specifically to nonprofit clients.